December 29, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology, Neoteny, Ontogeny, Ouroboros, Society

Maturity is not the same as progress.  To pass through a series of ontological stages evidencing the look, sound and behavior of the personal epochs that have been experienced is not progress.  It is life.

All mixed up in contemporary theorizing are three things:  the exact nature and difference between that which transforms over time that is changing as a result of random interconnections, that which is changing as a result of progress or improvement over time and that which is changing as part of a larger pattern of maturation.

Evolutionary biology tends to take the position that evolution follows Darwin’s wedges metaphor, with every feature of every being emerging as a direct or indirect result of what is necessary to survive to procreate.  Features acquired by individuals are random, unconnected to the environment or the parents’ experience, making random feature survival the central focus of evolution.  There is no such thing as progress.  There is no larger picture to inform what survives to procreate.

Society, religion and spirituality tend to focus on the idea that either we are on a pathway toward improvement or we are not.  Those saying not are often atheists, and often they find themselves sympathizing with the evolutionists.  Those allying themselves with the idea that things are getting better by design, whether deity-inspired or not, view society as an unfolding that will eventually end up somewhere that most would interpret as a good place.  With our science grounded in Wallace and Darwin’s theory of natural selection, there is often a not-so-subtle split between science and society perspectives.

The third path is an understanding of evolution or progress, which is not well understood.  Perhaps the primary reason there is confusion is that this third path suggests a “deistic” insight, though there is no deity.  The third path describes evolution as a dynamic that reveals a larger pattern, one characterized by interconnections over time and space, a dynamic that posits concepts of maturity as integral to understanding evolution.

Maturation is not about progress.  Maturation is a succession of stages over the course of time.  A baby is not more or less evolved, more or less good than an adult or any other stage of maturity.  No single stage of maturity is worse or better, more or less evolved than any other stage.  All stages are part of a single continuum.

The same holds true regarding evolution.  Species evolution reveals a vast, complex dance of maturation, with individuals maturing within lineages maturing within societies within species within larger systems.  Maturation at the biological level is influenced by an almost infinite number of environmental variables hypothetically managing the rates and timing of evolution through testosterone and estrogen.  Metamorphosis at the biological, societal, ontological and personal levels are all occurring according to the demands of the environment and social structure, far from random interpretations of change.

It’s not about a random universe and random evolution.  It’s not about progress and the march toward the betterment of all.  It is about shifting scales and seeing how we as individuals, maturing as who we are, while we are who we are, is the exact same process engaged in by society, biology, and possibly, the universe.

Maturation is a pattern that repeats across all scales of existence, featuring the carrying forward of creation toward cessation (neoteny) and the carrying backward of cessation toward creation (acceleration).  I’m thinking that this is a natural dynamic, and it’s just how stuff works, a principle or law of existence.  Characteristics of embryos, youth, infants, creation, everything associated with beginnings slowly make their way forward through successive stages of whatever scale we happen to be examining until traits associated with beginnings approach the end.  At the same time, features of adults, old timers, the mature, and the end of systems make their way backward through successive stages of whatever scale we choose to explore until characteristics of endings advance upon the start.

Tracing these patterns over time is the study of many of our science disciplines.  Nevertheless, our science practitioners are bereft of a larger picture.  They are without an intuition that maturation is a feature of the larger system, revealing smaller patterns that a discipline explores.  These are patterns having nothing to do with progress but which nevertheless exhibit predictable outcomes.

What is missing in our explorations is the insight that there is no such thing as narrative time.  Humans have a unique ability to exercise imagination.  We confuse an ability to be two places at once and a seeming ability to examine time with the assumption that time is examinable.  Time can be experienced, not examined.  What we are missing is that each of us individually is actually every time we have ever been.  There is no progress or improving.  There is the moment.  The societal, religious and spiritual paths that suggest that progress is underway are mixing up location on the path with the path as a whole.  The path as a whole is about maturation.  There is no worse or better place to be on that path.

Maturity is not the same as progress.  To pass through a series of ontological stages evidencing the look, sound and behavior of the epochs we have experienced is not just a result of natural selection.  It is life.


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